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European Court of Human Rights points at national Parliaments to change laws

An attempt to overturn the UK law on assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia by appealing to the European court of human rights has failed. The Strasbourg court has rejected as inadmissible applications by Jane Nicklinson, whose husband Tony suffered from locked-in syndrome, and Paul Lamb, who was paralysed following a car crash.
The seven-judge panel on the ECHR unanimously dismissed Mrs Nicklinson’s claim on the grounds that it was for the national parliament to decide on such a sensitive issue. The court said: “In the United Kingdom, the assessment as to the risk and likely incidence of abuse if the prohibition on assisted suicide were to be relaxed was made by parliament in enacting section 2(1) of the 1961 act, a provision that has been reconsidered several times by parliament in recent years. Requiring courts to give a judgement on the merits of a complaint about the prohibition could have the effect of forcing upon them an institutional role not envisaged by the domestic constitutional order”.

In the Lamb case, the Strasbourg court said his lawyers had not yet exhausted all domestic remedies because the argument that there should be a judicial procedure to authorise voluntary euthanasia in certain circumstances had not yet been put before the UK’s supreme court.